Gatchalian wants tax-free allowances for teachers on poll duty

Robie de Guzman   •   January 21, 2020   •   659

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has urged his fellow lawmakers to expedite the passage of a bill seeking to grant tax exemption to the honoraria, transportation allowance and other benefits for public school teachers who will be on duty in the May 2022 elections.

In a statement, Gatchalian said that his measure, Senate Bill No. 1193, primarily introduces amendments to the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 so teachers can receive the full amount of their honoraria and other benefits.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue started imposing five percent withholding tax on poll workers’ election service honoraria and other allowances since the 2018 barangay elections.

The lawmaker stressed that despite the continuous service that these poll workers render to ensure the transmission of results, they still have to pay income tax if their annual taxable income, which includes such honoraria and allowances, exceeds the P250,000 threshold under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.

“Mahabang oras ang inilalaan ng mga guro upang siguruhin ang kaayusan at integridad ng ating mga halalan,” Gatchalian said.

“Kaya naman inihain natin itong panukalang batas na ito upang kilalanin ang kanilang mahalagang papel para pangalagaan ang ating demokrasya,” he added.

The bill also proposes to exclude teachers’ poll honoraria and allowances from gross income. Under the Election Service Reform Act (ESRA), chairpersons of electoral boards are each entitled to receive P6,000. Each member of electoral boards receive P5,000. Department of Education Supervisor Officials (DESO) receive P4,000 each while support staff receive P2,000 each.

A travel allowance of P1,000 is also allotted to each of these poll workers. The ESRA, though, has no provision for tax exemption.

Aside from the necessity of paying income tax despite the poll workers’ arduous work during elections, Gatchalian also lamented the process they have to go through to collect their pay.

To collect their election honoraria and benefits, poll workers have to go to the local Commission on Elections (COMELEC) offices and submit a declaration of exemptions if they earn less than P250,000 annually.

“Napapagod na nga ang ating mga guro tuwing halalan, kailangan pa nilang dumaan sa isang komplikadong proseso para makuha lang nila ang kanilang sahod at mga benepisyo. Kung hindi na papatawan ng buwis ang sahod at benepisyo ng mga guro tuwing halalan, hindi lang sila basta makakatanggap ng kabuuang bayad, mas mapapadali din ang proseso para sa COMELEC,” he said.

Gatchalian believes the proposed measure is the best way to thank teachers and other poll workers for ensuring clean, honest and orderly elections in the country.

Duterte nominates Davao del Norte poll exec as COMELEC commissioner

Robie de Guzman   •   November 26, 2020

Aimee Ferolino-Ampoloquio

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has nominated Davao del Norte Provincial Election Supervisor Aimee Ferolino-Ampoloquio as commissioner of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte signed Ampoloquio’s nomination on Nov. 24.

“With her vast experience in election matters, Ms. Ampoloquio, would certainly contribute in ensuring our elections would be honest, orderly, peaceful, and credible,” Roque said in a statement.

The poll body has welcomed the nomination of Ampoloquio.

She will fill the position of COMELEC Commissioner Al Parreño who retired last February.

Should the Commission on Appointments approve her nomination, Ampoloquio will serve as Commissioner for a term expiring on February 2, 2027.

Lawyer Ampoloquio first joined COMELEC in 1994 as an emergency laborer then became an election assistant for 12 years.

She also served as an election officer in the First District of Davao City for a decade before she became the Provincial Election Supervisor of Davao del Norte.

No voter registration on Nov. 30 and Dec. 8, Comelec says

Robie de Guzman   •   November 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – All offices of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) nationwide will be closed on November 30 and December 8, the poll body announced on Wednesday.

In an advisory, COMELEC said there will be no voter registration and no transactions with the public both in the main and field offices on said dates, including the issuance of voter’s certification.

November 30 is a regular holiday while December 8 was declared a special non-working holiday pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 845.

The poll body also reminded the public that voter registration is conducted from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. during weekdays, with Friday as the designated disinfection day.

This is the schedule unless the local government unit prescribes a different disinfection day.

“Everyone is enjoined to strictly observe and practice the minimum public health standards inside and outside COMELEC offices,” the advisory said.

Comelec to revert weekday schedule for voter registration on Nov. 9

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 22, 2020

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced on Thursday (October 22) that it will revert to weekday schedule for voter registration beginning November 9.

When Comelec resumed voter registration last September 1, it was scheduled to be conducted from Tuesdays to Saturdays.

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said reverting to the weekday schedule will provide the agency time to disinfect offices on Saturdays.

“The Commission on Elections deems it necessary to revert to the weekday schedule to make way for Saturday disinfection days in all Offices of the Election Officer nationwide,” he said.

However, the Comelec official clarified that voter registration in areas under localized Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) will remain suspended.

Comelec also reminded the public that minimum health safety protocols will also be implemented during the registration to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Wearing of face mask and face shield is mandatory, the number of people to be allowed inside the COMELEC office will be limited to ensure compliance with physical distancing requirements, and applicants are encouraged to bring their own pens,” Jimenez said. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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